Railfan sites and commercial dealers in rail cars keep track of individual cars. Yes, there is a market for both cars and engines. The passenger and support cars used on our excursion to Staunton and back were gathered from far and wide. All of them have stories. We may have already made the acquaintance of a couple. Read on.

Powhatan Arrow

The Powhatan Arrow was a Norfolk and Western passenger train between Norfolk and Cincinnati by way of Roanoke and Bluefield, WV. The 611 was one of the engines used on this line, so this car has been reunited with its original motive power.

The Arrow made its final run in 1969.

Chamberburg Inn

"Iowa Pacific" in faded paint along the top of the car references Iowa Pacific Holdings, a company that owned and managed several heritage lines in the US and England. A subsidiary, Heritage Rail Leasing, owned heritage rolling stock. In 2021 the rolling stock was sold as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

This particular car is a TV star. It was used in filming episodes of Women of the Movement, an ABC miniseries based on the story of Emmett Till.

Several other cars had Iowa Pacific designations.

Crescent Harbor

After we married in 1977, Jim and I took holidays each year to visit my folks. We typically rented a cottage in Biloxi, Mississippi, and spent the week crabbing, eating, drinking, laughing, and playing bridge. They were fun times. We always tried to take the overnight Southern Crescent between DC and Atlanta then catch a flight to Gulfport where my parents picked us up at the airport.

When it became clear that the Southern Railway was going to turn over its passenger business to Amtrak, we decided to go for broke and reserve the "master suite" in the lounge car. I don't know if this was the actual car we rode in, but it is one of only three remaining such cars. We'll just assert it was this one.

One attraction of the master suite was that it had a shower -- a rarity in those days. Yes, it had a shower, but never promised hot water!

I don't know how the car got from the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum to the Virginia Scenic Railway, but the WVRHS&M also owns a Powhatan Arrow car, so maybe both of these are leased or on loan.

Pontchartrain Club

This is the other car that I may have ridden in the past. The Pontchartrain Club was built in 1917 and has had a long and varied history..

When I was growing up in Mississippi, my family occasionally took the train either to New Orleans (the City of New Orleans) or Chicago (the Panama Limited). A feature of "The City" was that it backed into the station. The club car was the last car on the train and the brakeman came back to make sure the train didn't overshoot the stopping point. I always begged my father to take me back to watch the process. I don't know if this particular car was one of the ones that we rode, but I'll assert that it was.

In those days The City was a daytime train between Chicago and New Orleans while the Panama Limited was an overnight train.

My family has a favorite story about the Panama Limited. My mother's sister married a Connecticut Yankee she met while living in Houston with her older brother. Uncle Frank's prominent New England family tut-tutted his choice of a southern girl of unknown family from Magnolia, Mississippi, but bowed to the inevitable. In the 1930s, train travel was the primary way to get around and the family came en masse from New England, connecting through Chicago on the Panama Limited.

Aunt Lib's prestige increased mightily with the snobs when the train made an unscheduled stop in Magnolia for the wedding guests. They didn't know, and weren't informed, that the stop was on account of a cousin being the engineer not because of any pull with the Illinois Central top brass.

VRE Railcar

Several of the cars, including the one we rode, were used by the Virginia Railway Express commuter train. This one is apparently awaiting restoration. We rode on #415, which was built by Pullman in 1956 for the Chicago and North Western.

The reserved seats were on the lower level, but once the train got going, people scattered into the upper levels for better views, which eliminated crowding.

Marc Maintenance Records

At one point during the excursion, I prowled through all of the cars I could access with my low-cost color wristband. (Not the Pontchartrain Club, alas.)

I found this fascinating item for one of the cars.

MARC is the Maryland commuter equivalent of the VRE. #149 was built in 1984 by Budd for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The most recent inspection report was in 2016 when it was owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings and held the name Steubenville Inn. In case you wonder how much it would cost for your own private railcar, this one was listed at $120,000 in the bankruptcy schedules. Of course you would have had to pick it up in Colorado, where it was located at the time.

The Chambersburg Inn was listed for $100,000 (located in Mississippi) and the Pontchartrain Club for $195,000 (located in Indiana).


I've not been able to trace this one yet, but it's here to illustrate a refurbished Virginia Scenic Railway car. Maybe someday they will all look more-or-less like this. I dunno; I like the variety.

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